National Academies Press: OpenBook

Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change (1990)

Chapter:Executive Summary

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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
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Executive Summary Although concern about and interest in the global role and fate of forests are currently great, the existing level of knowledge about forests is inadequate to develop sound forest-management policies. Current knowl- edge and patterns of research will not result in sufficiently accurate pre- dictions of the consequences of potentially harmful influences on forests, including forest-management practices that lack a sound basis in biological knowledge. This deficiency will reduce our ability to maintain or enhance forest productivity, recreation, and conservation as well as our ability to ameliorate or adapt to changes in the global environment. ~ help overcome this unfortunate deficiency in knowledge, a new research paradigm will need to be adopted" an environmental paradigm. Even though previous approaches to forestry research employing the con- servation and preservation paradigms have been adequate to meet many past forest management goals, they are now inadequate to guide forestry research into the future. However, the adoption of an environmental paradigm will require forestry research to increase the breadth of research areas covered and the depth to which they are investigated. Major issues that society faces concerning forests are · how forests and climate affect each other, especially in the face of rapid global deforestation and forest degradation; loss of biological diversity; · growing demand for wood, wood fiber, and derivative chemical products; 1

FORESTRY RESEARCH · increasing demand for the preservation of "pristine" forested areas; · sustainable wood production integrated with protection of fish, wildlife, water, recreation, and aesthetic values; and · maintenance of the health of forests nationally and globally. All of these issues demonstrate the array of societal needs that depend on forestry research. From the protection of our vital forest products industry to the protection of regional and global environments, forestry research must be positioned to play a major role. AREAS OF RESEARCH NEEDED TO ADDRESS MAJOR ISSUES Five broad research areas critically need to be strengthened: (1) the biology of forest organisms; (2) ecosystem function and management; (3) human-forest interactions; (4) wood as a raw material; and (5) interna- tional trade, competition, and cooperation. These major research areas encompass the research needed to address current and future biological, climatic, and societal issues in forestry and the related management of renewable natural resources. Although the research needs described in this report have importance for tropical as well as temperate forestry, we do not divide research into those two categories, but highlight fundamental research areas that need attention globally. Basic forestry research should provide for · understanding the basic biology and ecology of forests, developing information to sustain productivity of forests as well as protect their inherent biological diversity, · designing and implementing landscape-level and other large-scale, long-term experiments, · understanding the economic and policy-making processes that affect the fates of forests, · developing systems of forest management that simultaneously pro- duce commodities and maintain and improve environmental values, · integrating the social component into research on forest ecosystems, which can then be applied to management practices, · developing harvesting systems that recover timber values without degrading other values, and · improving the efficiency of production and utilization of new and traditional wood products.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 3 THE STATUS OF FORESTRY RESEARCH Although much good research is now in progress within the forestry research community, in aggregate, forestry research is inadequate to meet society's needs. Forestry research must improve in quality and at the same time broaden its scope if societal issues are to be addressed adequately. In turn, the number of scientists participating in basic forestry research must increase. The number of scientists currently earning Ph.D.s in forestry and related fields has remained almost static since 1978, while the number of un- dergraduate degrees awarded has declined precipitously by approximately 50 percent. With increasing demands for forestry and forestry-related re- search, improvements are clearly required in the way scientists are recruited into forestry research. One way to enhance forestry's human resource is to promote interdisciplinary research, which will provide new technology and different research approaches. As forestry issues become more complex, ,, , the need for interdisciplinary research will become even greater. With numerous advisory committees representing organizational re- search interests, leadership in forestry research has been fragmented. Gov- ernment agencies and other organizations responsible for research activities can obtain policy advice from a wide variety of sources, such as internal advisory committees at the level of agency head or at the level of division. Research organizations can also draw upon other groups for advice, groups such as the National Research Council. Because of the broad range of re- search organizations and clientele of forestry research, none of the existing forestry advisory committees has adequately met the needs of the forestry research community in general. Therefore, a policy advisory mechanism must be established to provide leadership that transcends the interests of individual organizations. Conclusions and Recommendations · Establish a National Forestry Research Council (NFRC) to pro- vide a forum for deliberations on forestry research and policy. The NF~C should be convened under the auspices of an organization or organiza- tions that can facilitate discussion and action. Financial support for the council's activities should come from member organizations and other interested sponsors. The NFEtC should consist of representatives from major organizations such as government agencies, industry, conservation organizations, and academia with strong interests in forests and related renewable natural resources and in agriculture. The NF8C would com- missior~ studies, conduct analyses, and provide advice to policy-makers on issues pertaining to forestry and related renewable natural resources. · Encourage conservation groups and other nongovernmental orga- nizations to more actively support basic forestry teaching and research through the activities of the NFRC.

4 FORESTRY RESEARCH · Provide a vastly expanded competitive funding mechanism to sup- port active forestry scientists and to attract scientists not yet active in forestry research. Create centers of scientific emphasis integrating scientists supported by major forestry research organizations, including industry. This should be done for each of the five research areas. The creation of a center of empha- sis does not necessarily require the construction of a new research facility. It does require, however, a mechanism for cooperative research that allows scientists to interact in a manner that enhances their productivity. More than one center could be established for each of the five research areas, depending on particular interests and strengths of the proposed center's participants. 1b create these centers, some existing research facilities may need to be closed and research funds may need to be redirected. Strengthen and broaden the teaching of forestry to attract a wider array of students, especially at the graduate level, and to interest other on-campus research groups in areas such as agriculture and biology. Increase the quality of forestry research by opening it to the broader scientific community. . Establish research-management collaborations at large spatial scales. This would require interdisciplinary research on large tracts of land. Establish long-term forestry research (L1LK) grants to provide a peer-reviewed, competitive funding mechanism for long-term (greater than one forest rotation) research support. . Establish competitive graduate fellowships for all areas of forest and environmental sciences. . Develop a cadre of forest and related scientists that reflect the national and global population composition and that are equipped to solve domestic, international, and global problems. SUPPORT FOR FORESTRY RESEARCH The recommendations contained in this section are based on the com- mittee's own study and knowledge of the U.S. forestry research system, on interviews with additional scientists, and on documents the commit- tee received from forestry-associated research organizations. The funding increases recommended in this report reflect the committee's experience in and concern about the current status and future prospects of forestry research in the United States. Federal support for forestry research has been decreasing over the past decade. The two main sources of support for forestry research are the USDA Forest Service and McIntire-Stennis funds administered through the Cooperative State Research Service. Other federal agencies, such as those

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 5 within the U.S. Department of the Interior, have minor research commit- ments. Specifically, the Forest Service budget for research has dropped in buying power by 14 percent over the past 10 years. Competitive grants supported by the Forest Service have been eliminated from their budget. The Cooperative State Research Service will support a modest competitive grants program in forestry ($4 million in 1990), but this remains totally inadequate in both size and scope. Because of inadequate funding, only about 9 percent of the proposals received in 1988 were awarded financial support. McIntire-Stennis funding (formula research funding for state- supported colleges and universities) has been well below the authorization level of 50 percent of the Forest Service research budget. Currently, McIntire-Stennis support is only 13 percent of the Forest Service research budget. Forestry research conducted by industry is also on the decline, with apparently fewer than 12 companies having internal forest biology and management research programs (out of 50 or more companies with sub- stantial forest land holdings). It has been estimated that over the past five years, in-house industry research has decreased by 50 percent. Sources of support for forestry research that seem to be improving include states and private foundations. However, the sum total (including federal, nonfederal, and industry sources of support) of research funding, which is estimated to be about $350 million annually, is very inadequate in view of the societal benefits that can be derived from increased research activity. In addition to general support for research, the physical facilities and research equipment at most research stations and forestry schools are inad- equate. Reports assessing the status of equipment in biology and agriculture research have drawn similar conclusions. These laboratories lack essential resources to carry out state-of-the-art research in forest sciences. Examples of the types of facilities and equipment that need to be available include electron and video-enhanced microscopes, analytical chemistry equipment, biochemistry and molecular biology equipment, computers, geographic in- formation systems, plant growth chambers, and greenhouses. Because funding has not kept pace with changing technology, the technology used in forestry research and teaching is rarely up to date. Recommendations for increases in funding for forestry research come at a time of overall fiscal constraint for the nation. Government officials must both reduce the national debt and set priorities among competing federal expenditures to enact programs that maintain the welfare, infras- tructure, security, and continued economic growth of the United States. As a part of that they must also address public concerns for maintaining global competitiveness and environmental resources. The goal of reducing expenditures while allocating funds for essential programs thus requires fiscal prudence. The committee recognizes that current federal budgetary constraints

6 FORESTRY RESEARCH make new funds for research support exceedingly difficult to obtain. Mean- ingful increases in research support for forestry and forestry-related re- search will likely be realized only as a result of changes in funding priorities within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Depart- ment of the Interior. As outlined in this report, the need for making these changes in funding priorities is urgent if future forests and related renew- able natural resources are to be protected from misuse and environmental degradation and if productivity is to be enhanced. Conclusions and Recommendations · Increase competitive grants from the USDA for the five major research areas discussed in this report to $100 million annually. A log- ical basis for this type of competitive research funding is the research funding initiative suggested by the National Research Council's Board on Agriculture (NRC, 1989c). This proposed increase for forestry research is consistent with the recommendations of the Board on Agriculture, which defines agriculture for the purpose of its $500 million funding initiative to include forestry and related areas. The five major research areas recom- mended in this report on forestry research (biology of forest organisms; ecosystem function and management; human-forest interactions; wood as a raw material; and international trade, competition, and cooperation) in- volve areas delineated in five of the six broad program areas in the Board on Agriculture's funding initiative (plant systems; animal systems; natu- ral resources and environment; engineering, products, and processes; and markets, trade, and policy). · Increase the USDA Forest SeIvice research budget by 10 percent each year for the next five years. These new funds should be allocated to the five research program areas discussed in the report. With these five successive annual increments, the Forest Service research budget will expand from its 1988 level of $135 million to $218 million after five years. · Increase McIntire-Stennis funds over the next five years to the full authorization level of 50 percent of the Forest Service budget. These new funds should also be allocated to the same five research program areas discussed in the present report. With these five successive annual increments, McIntire-Stennis funding will expand from its 1988 level of $17.5 million to $109 million after five years. · Conduct a national assessment of the current status of equipment and facilities needed to carry out the research described in this report. MAXIMIZING THE BENEFITS FROM FORESTRY RESEARCH Increasing public awareness of the interdependence of our forests and global environmental issues will require greater participation of forest

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 7 scientists in local, national, and even global policy-making. The demand for expert opinion on environmental issues will increase, as will the demand for expert opinion on human-forest interactions, such as how to manage forests that are increasingly used by people. Therefore, not only is more research necessary, but also more effective ways to transfer this information to policymakers is required. Extension forestry is an important mechanism for technology transfer, particularly to owners of small parcels of private woodland, natural resource professionals, and the general public. For example, in North Carolina alone, 45 landowner associations have been able to increase timber income by $30 million through effective forestry extension efforts. The present extension forestry effort is inadequate to serve current needs, much less future ones. A strengthened program in forestry research requires a strengthened companion effort in forestry extension. Conclusions and Recommendations · Scientists must assume a leadership role in communicating their knowledge to policy-mal~ers. Incorporate an outreach component to communicate results of research projects to a broader range of clients whenever possible. · Establish a professional reward system that acknowledges the va- lidity of efforts of scientists involved in outreach. · Double the base level of funding and full-time-equivalent staff devoted to forestry extension in cooperation with state and local partners. · Increase the funding provided by the Renewable Resources Exten- sion Act (RREA) to the appropriation authorization level of $15 million dollars annually. Integrate extension specialists with their research counterparts in colleges and universities in those instances where interaction between ex- tension specialists and research scientists is inadequate. - SUMMARY Forestry research must change radically if it is to help meet national and global needs. It must become broader in its clients, participants, and problems, and at the same time it must both become more rigorous and be carried out in greater depth. The number of scientists and amount of resources devoted to forestry research have declined significantly and are continuing to decline, even as needs increase. To meet the challenge of change, new approaches and new resources of the kind described in this report are required. The educational and fiscal systems that support forestry research must be restructured and revitalized; integrated research facilities must be created where public and private resources can be effectively

8 FORES TRY RESEARCH concentrated on basic questions and extension activities. These changes will be expensive, difficult, and, for many, painful. They will be painful in that research resources will need to be redirected and certain research facilities may have to be closed. The consequences of not making them, however, would be more painful: a national and global society increasingly unable to preserve and manage forest resources for its own benefit and for the benefit of future generations. We emphasize here that both the wise use and the misuse of forests are consequences of human activity. Without a large additional increment of knowledge derived from increased forestry research to provide policy alternatives, the misuse exemplified by deforestation, destroyed productive potential, and lost biological diversity will prevail. Knowledge gained from an improved system of forestry research will enable society to choose wise use and thus to secure the environmental, economic, and spiritual benefits of forests.

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Forests are valuable in our daily lives, crucial to our nation's ecomony, and integral to the long-term health of the environment. Yet, forestry research has been critically underfunded, and the data generated under current research programs is not enough to meet the diverse needs of our society.

Forestry Research provides a research agenda that should yield the information we need to develop responsible policies for forest use and management. In this consensus of forestry experts, the volume explores:

  • The diverse and competing concerns of the timber industry, recreational interests, and wildlife and environmental organizations.
  • The gap between our need for information and the current output of the forestry research program.
  • Areas of research requiring attention: biology of forest organisms, ecosystem function and management, human-forest interactions, wood as raw material, and international trade and competition.

Forestry Research is an important book of special interest to federal and state policymakers involved in forestry issues, research managers, researchers, faculty, and students in the field.

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